Same, Same but Different: Skyping with Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

IMG_0605What an exciting day!  Mrs. Wright and Mrs. Ramseyer’s class had the chance to Skype with incredible author/illustrator Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw.  She was simply amazing!  Today’s Skype came about because a few months ago, Shannon Miller and I began a blogging project with our second graders.  The whole project was started with the book Same, Same but Different.  Our classes skyped with one another and began writing blog posts about our world to share with one another.  Shannon and I both shared this work on our blogs and shared the project on Jenny Sue’s Facebook page.  Jenny Sue reached out to us and wanted to connect with our students to share her work and talk about their work.  We had a few email exchanges and test call to prepare for today’s session.

For today’s skype, students wrote some questions in advance.  I went through and selected about 10 of them to have ready for today, but I let the students know that I would remove any questions that she answered during her talk.  Students in both classes also drew pictures of “their world” just like Kailash and Elliot do in the book.  They added a sentence to describe what was in the picture just like in the book.  The teachers and I selected about 10 of these for students to share during the Skype.

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We also took time to look at a Google map to see how far it was to Taos, New Mexico from Athens, GA.  (1,491 miles & 22 hours 47 minutes in a car)

FireShot Screen Capture #023 - '280 Gaines School Rd, Athens, GA 30605 to Taos, NM - Google Maps' - maps_google_com

IMG_0613 IMG_0612 IMG_0611Our session started with Jenny Sue sharing her process for making Same, Same but Different.  We heard about her travels to Nepal.  She reached over and pulled out her journals to show the kids how she collected ideas, sketches, and research in her journals.  After collecting all of these thoughts and sketches, she started working on the story.  She said she probably made at least a hundred different versions of the story before she had the idea that she really wanted.  Jenny Sue showed the students the book with the rough sketches of the illustrations as well as how those rough sketches changed in the final book.  She even pulled out an original painting from the book and shared it with us.  I loved how we felt like we were sitting in Jenny Sue’s living room and every time she thought of something to share with us she could just reach right out and get it.  I also loved that she was sitting on a bouncy ball while she Skyped!  We learned how her publisher didn’t really like the ending of the book that she sent to them and how she tweaked it just a bit to satisfy what they wanted in the book.  She shared that even the smallest change can make a world of difference.

Next was one of my favorite parts, students came up to the rocking chair that my dad made and shared their own art with Jenny Sue.  I loved how she took time to look at each piece of art, considering what it had to offer and what story it told.  She gave each student an acknowledgement of their hard work and pointed out a special quality of each piece.  She even took pictures of some of the artwork to remember.


We used a similar format for students to come up and ask questions.  I really liked having students sit in the rocking chair right in front of the camera so that they could be seen and heard.  It felt like they were having a 1 on 1 conversation, even though 2 whole classes were watching.

This will be a day I will cherish.  Same, Same but Different  has become a book that I love to use when connecting with other schools and in my lessons about culture.  I am so grateful to Jenny Sue for taking time out of her day and busy writing life and family life to share the love of reading, writing, and illustrating with our students.  If you haven’t read this book, please take some time to check it out from your library or better yet, purchase several copies from your local book stores!  You won’t be disappointed.

Listen to a snippet of our visit!

“Same, Same but Different”: Making Connections through Blogging with 2nd Grade

983 miles to Van Meter

983 miles to Van Meter

I’m so excited about the project that two 2nd grade classes are working on right now.  Mrs. Ramseyer and Mrs. Wright’s classes are connecting with Shannon Miller’s 2nd grade students in Van Meter, Iowa.  Right now, our 2nd graders are working on opinion writing.  The idea for this project started there, but it has grown into so much more through email and face-to-face conversations with the teachers and tweets, emails, and Google Docs with Shannon Miller.


Yesterday, the 2 second grade classes came to the library to kickoff the project.  We looked at Google Earth and mapped the distance from our school to Van Meter Elementary in Van Meter, Iowa.  It is 983 miles and would take over 15 hours to drive there.  Students were also curious about how long it would take to walk there, so Google Earth showed us it would take about 304 hours!  With the approaching snow storm, I’m not sure I want to try that one!

Next we talked about what it means to blog.  I showed them the library blog and how it is read by people all around the world.  We even looked at the Clustr map showing where our blog readers come from.  I was trying to build their understanding of how large your audience is when you publish your writing online.

The students will use Kid Blog to create their blogs.  This tool allows you to quickly create multiple accounts through an Excel spreadsheet upload.  No email addresses are required.  Then, all students have to do is go to the blog, select their name, and type in their password to type their posts.  We took a look at this, and you should have heard the excitement when they saw that their names were already on the screen.

Writing our paper blogs

Writing our paper blogs

IMG_0016Finally, we had the kids brainstorm with a partner what they might write about in a first post.  We wanted the focus to be “About Me”.  Before we sent them to tables to write, I reminded them of the importance of not including personal information such as full names, addresses, phone numbers, etc.  At tables, each student wrote a paper blog post about themselves.  Mrs. Wright, Mrs. Ramseyer, and I all walked around and conferenced with students on their posts.  We were impressed with how much students were willing to write.  I was reminded of the importance of kids having an authentic audience for their work and how motivating that audience can be to even the most reluctant of writers.

Same, Same but Different will be a theme for our conversations

Same, Same but Different will be a theme for our conversations

Today, we connected via Skype with Shannon and her students.  We read the book Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw.   It was such a perfect book because it pushes the notion that all over the world we do things that are the same but they might look a little different.  During our Skype, we paused and let the kids talk about Iowa and Georgia.  They stepped up to the camera and asked questions about one another about the weather, activities, and school population.  They made several connections to the story.  For example, in Iowa it is about to snow a lot.  It takes a major snow for them to get out of school.  We get snow here in GA, too, but we get out of school if there is just a dusting.  Same, same but different!  As we blog with one anther, it is our hope to share our favorite books and opinions as well as continue to explore the idea of how connected we are in the world even though things might look and sound a little different.  I have a feeling students will continue to say “Same, same but different”.IMG_0028

On Monday and Tuesday, our 2nd graders will type and post their blogs.  We will mail our paper versions of our writing to Iowa so that Shannon’s students can practice commenting on them before they actually comment online.  She will do the same with her students’ writing so that we can practice commenting, too.

IMG_0025From there, we hope to connect some more through Skype and through the continued writing of our blogs.

This is going to be a very rich experience for these students, teachers, and librarians!

Students stepped up to ask one another about living in Iowa and Georgia

Students stepped up to ask one another about living in Iowa and Georgia